Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The River War Again

Blackfive has a verbatim briefing on Operation Newmarket from a senior Marine officer against which an earlier Belmont Club post can be compared.

Senior Marine Officer Earlier Belmont Club Post
First "NEW MARKET." As the press is reporting, we commenced operations a few days ago in the Haditha area - a critical crossroads from west to east in the country. At Haditha the MSRs meet and provide high-speed asphalt North towards Mosul and east towards Baghdad. It is a fair size city, often referred to by locals as the 'capital of west Al Anbar province (Ramadi being the provincial capital). Some of you might remember that about 3-4 weeks ago, insurgents took the Haditha hospital and burnt it when Marines came in and took it from them -- that's the fire footage you keep seeing (The press forgets that we took that hospital back then; instead, they only remembered that we lost a few Marines there in the initial ambush - not this time however).

Over the past few months, following our 1stMARDIVs magnificent actions in Fallujah (Operation AL FAJR) we have seen elements of the insurgency scatter along the 'green belt' of the Euphrates. Because of the strategic crossroads aspects, Haditha has been a problem. Following Matador, a lot of good intel had been developed on the insurgent 'underground railroad' moving to key cities. Intel, particularly in the counterinsurgency ops (COIN) as you know drives the operations -- operations develops more Intel - and we get the 'perfect circle' that lets us continue aggressive action...see we did learn from our VN-veteran Marines!! Remember, I started this journey in '73 so all y'all were the guys that taught me how to do this -- I owe ya!

We planned a series of operations in the west -- not unusual - to exploit information gained in previous operations and from some great atmospherics from the local(s) who are, as we are, fed up with terrorists using their villages, recruiting their young, etc...Essentially, each battalion assessed their respective battlespace and, as Marine BNs have done forever, planned operations to close with...

There are several interesting things about the battalion sized operation against insurgents in Haditha, Iraq. First, Haditha is near the place where US forces nearly captured Abu Musab Zarqawi on February 20 of this year. Readers may recall the details of that story, in which Zarqawi escaped capture by jumping out of his vehicle and hiding in the area.

US forces just missed arresting Al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq in a February 20 raid between Hit and Haditha, near the Euphrates river, a statement said. "Zarqawi was able to escape capture as coalition forces closed in on his vehicle. Zarqawi's driver, Abu Usama, was captured during the raid," it said.

Second is location. Haditha is in the middle of the Euphrates river line that has Qusabayah/Qaim on its northern terminus on the Syrian border and Falljah as its southeastern anchor. Haditha is also where a roadline goes northeastwards across the top of Tharthar Lake, the scene of an earlier operation against an insurgent camp, toward the Tigris river line. The third is tempo. Haditha is the second straight operation against the Euphrates river line this month. It is about the same size as Operation Matador. "U.S. military officials said Operation New Market is about the same size a weeklong assault dubbed Operation Matador that began May 7." The Globe and Mail also notes the succession of attacks:

Earlier this month, U.S. forces conducted a weeklong operation in the city of Qaim and other Iraqi towns near the Syrian border aimed at rooting out militants allied to Jordanian-born terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and destroying their smuggling routes into Syria. At least 125 militants were killed in that operation, along with nine U.S. Marines, the military said.

The obvious inference, though not necessarily the correct one, is that the Haditha assault is part of a campaign to 'chop up' the Euphrates River line. A convenient place to start the narrative is the second battle of Fallujah in November, 2004, followed by Tharthar Lake in March, 2005, Qusabayah/Qaim in May 2005 and lastly, the current attack on Haditha.


The significance of the Euphrates River line as a line of communication or "conveyor belt" was described in an old Belmont Club post called the River War, now inaccessible due to a fault in Blogger. (I am trying to get it back up by deleting old and useless posts from 2003. Here's hoping.) The Marine officers description of New Market provides basic validation of a theme on this site, which is the strategic spatial shape of the insurgency; it is no longer just pure speculation but has some empirical evidence.

One curious aspect of this war is that it may be the first time in history that two opposing sides have shared the same MSRs (or Main Supply Routes)


Blogger Doug said...


This comment pops up: Apparently from Phuket days according to Carridine's first post.

5/31/2005 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Anybody else out there running Google Desktop Search?
...looks like I have quite a few of Wretchard's posts cached by it...

5/31/2005 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

37,200 by my count

5/31/2005 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

From the frontier to Baghdad is about 250 mi or 400km by my map skills. I see Ramadi about 160 km west of Baghdad on the main road net. The road runs straight from Ramadi towards the Syrian border while the river meanders in the desert to the north of the hiway. Villages and farms line the river valley, usually from low overlook positions.
This is where the last stand will be made, along this ancient river valley, the Battle of Iraq will be decided on this ground.
Our Combat Power will move to contact thru this area of Iraq, clearing the villages of nonIraqi personel.
The Indig Government troops will then extend Police powers into these areas as the follow on force, moving in conjuction with our overwatch support.
Watch the tempo increase even more as we head into Constitution Time and Election Season in the Fall. 60-90 hectic days are in the cards.

Great Call on the River War

I may be so bold as to say that-
There's a light at the end of the tunnel!

5/31/2005 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

At one of his Hay Festival appearances, Christopher Hitchens predicted Syria's Baathist regime will be gone in two years. That may be wishful thinking, but if this clip from Al-Jazeera TV is any indication, the regime's collapse is only a matter of time. (Transcript here.)
According to MEMRI the clip is from "a discussion about the Assad regime between Said Abu Ghannam from the Syrian opposition and Ba'th party leader Ahmad Al-Hajj Ali."
Given what he says about the Assads, it's hard to believe Ghannam is living freely in Syria. But the incredulous sputtering outrage he elicits from the Baathist functionary is priceless, and speaks volumes about the sclerotic state of the Damascus regime. Credit to Al-Jazeera for broadcasting it.
. ____Hurry Up Harry____

5/31/2005 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger ex-democrat said...

b-b-but Doug: "bashar assad is above accusations!!!"

5/31/2005 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Christoper Hitchens is an example of a Trotsky Commie that "Turned"
No such hope for Assad and his cohort of thugs.
Listen to Bush, and believe, he does.

5/31/2005 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Al Anbar governor found dead. Also, an indication of the foreign element. Latest from AP:

Officials said the body of Anbar Gov. Raja Nawaf Farhan al-Mahalawi was found Sunday after troops engaged in a fierce firefight with foreigners holed up in a house in Rawah, a desert village 175 miles northwest of Baghdad.

The battle killed two Syrians, an Algerian and a Jordanian and wounded two Saudis and a Moroccan, a U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Wes Hayes, said.


5/31/2005 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Let me try that link again:


5/31/2005 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger Enigma said...


I hope you can recover The River War post. It has sentimental value to me: it was the first post on Belmont Club that I ever read. It's been amazing to watch operations in Iraq unfold very much as you had speculated 7-8 months ago.

5/31/2005 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I read in an Egyptian paper that he's in stable condition.

5/31/2005 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

If he can't, it will forever remain one.
Worse, it would be a great loss to all.
Hopefully archives exist SOMEWHERE.
As I noted before, even w/o links it is valuable, since there is a webcrawler plugin for desktop search, plus if we could download archives ala Den Beste, Desktop search would give instant access.
(there is a plugin that allows you to search mapped drives and external drives)
/end Desktop Search Ad.

5/31/2005 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Dymphna said...


LGF has an excerpt newly up re a Rand Study that claims there is growing support for military solutions to the terror equation:

The study examines key predictors of national support for U.S. military operations from Somalia to Iraq. It was compiled by the RAND Arroyo Center’s Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Army.

“The main implication for the Army,” concludes the report, “is that Americans have proved themselves far more willing to use ground troops — to put boots on the ground — and to accept casualties in operations conducted under the global war on terror than in any of the military operations” during the 1990s.

Americans’ opinions went on a war footing following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, often matching levels of support for military action seen during World War II, according to the study that synthesizes findings from about 100 public opinion surveys

Among many other things, including the obvious Scotch-Irish base of the US, this report will make for worried reading among some of the Dems running next year. Look for boats to start tacking fast...

5/31/2005 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Last week at Costco I starting chatting w/a lady whose son just graduated from a very expensive private high school here who said the same thing about the students there post 911.
Previously, very few got beyond the usual distractions plus studies. (Much more difficult than failing Public Schools)
Now, many see a world larger than their own.
Her son is thinking about the Peace Corps, but some of his friends have joined the Marines, Army, etc.
Hillary's boat is already tacked, of course:
How we deal w/her and the full support of MSM will be a challenge.
(Hard to imagine almost any campaigner as bad as JFK2 was.)

5/31/2005 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

It's trendy to be suspicious of people with "deeply held views."
And it's wrong
"...Why this panic about certainty and people who display it? It is not just, as conventional wisdom has it, that liberals think the last election was lost because of a bloc of benighted Evangelicals.
It is because we are almost four years from 9/11 and four years of moral certainty, and firm belief is about all that secular liberalism can tolerate.

Do you remember 9/11? How you felt? The moral clarity of that day and the days thereafter? Just days after 9/11, on this very page, Lance Morrow wrote a brilliant, searing affirmation of right against wrong, good against evil.

A few years of that near papal certainty is more than any self-respecting intelligentsia can take. The overwhelmingly secular intellectuals are embarrassed that they once nodded in assent to Morrow-like certainty, an affront to their self-flattering pose as skeptics.

Enough. A new day, a new wave. Time again for nuance, doubt and the comforts of relativism.
. ____In Defense of Certainty____ .By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER

5/31/2005 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...


Regarding the Egyptian story. Those darned doubles! They're everywhere!

5/31/2005 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger kosumi said...

You can read "The River War" here.


I think all the posts are cached in google.

5/31/2005 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

They've got the American Public convinced they've got the real Saddam!

5/31/2005 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

____At Least 80 Killed in Raid on Insurgent Camp in Iraq____.
The number of anti-government fighters killed was the most reported in a single conflict since the American offensive against the insurgent stronghold of Falluja last November. The size and location of the camp, with scores of guerrillas reportedly living in tents and small buildings in a marshy lakeside encampment 50 miles northwest of the capital, revealed a strategic shift among some insurgents, American military officials said. It was first time, they said, that the military had come across insurgents organizing in such numbers in a remote rural location, reminiscent of Al Qaeda training camps in the arid mountains of Afghanistan before the American invasion there.

"A year ago, they preferred to organize in small cells in urban areas," said Maj. Richard Goldenberg, a spokesman for the 42nd Infantry Division, which sent soldiers and attack helicopters to aid the hundreds of Iraqi commandos who raided the camp. "Here, they organized into a large group in a remote site, perhaps under the impression that coalition forces wouldn't look for them there."

Before the American invasion, the site, Lake Tharthar, in an otherwise barren, parched region, was a popular tourist spot for Iraqis and was home to a fish farming project started by the government of Saddam Hussein.
The lake straddles the border between Anbar and Salahuddin Provinces, both insurgent strongholds dominated by the former governing Sunni Muslims, and its southern and eastern shores lie close to cities with strong guerrilla cells.

5/31/2005 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

...worried reading among some of the Dems ...

Forget the Dem's. I want to see a worried squint in the eyes of a few old fat oil rich sheikhs. And their bought-off mullah's.

5/31/2005 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The comments link on kosumi's url, brings up the original comments.

"The discovery of carbomb factories in Fallujah suggests that town was the easternmost terminus of a finger that extended straight from the Syrian border, a final launching pad where enemy delivery systems were "bombed up" for their sorties at US targets in the city or as convoys made their way along the highways west of Baghdad.

Taking Fallujah then, was not merely a symbolic political act to reduce a 'symbol of defiance', but a sound operational move. It interdicts the conveyor belt of destruction that flowed from the Syrian border towards Baghdad. The logical next step is to cut the line again near the Syrian border, perhaps at Anah, so that by taking out both ends the middle is left unsupported. Alternatively, the US could roll up the enemy line of communication going north by taking out Ramadi which would force the enemy to sortie from Haditha, a little ville a lot farther from Baghdad. Although this will not totally destroy the insurgency, it will throttle movement along their lines of communication considerably. Guerilla warfare, like all warfare, is logistics. It just takes different forms.
By next year, the regular Iraqi Army will be a far more potent force and the Sunni insurgency a far weaker one. But that's the old sad human story; to miss the chance when it comes and pine for it ever afterward."
. ____River War____ .
(Near Bottom of Page)

5/31/2005 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

A couple of interesting articles in the 23 May Av Week talk about how USAF F-15E's and F-16's with the new Sniper targeting pods are being used mainly to keep an eye on things during ground ops and report info to the ground forces along the lines of "Three guys just ran out the back of that building when y'all kicked in the front door and they are hiding in that house to the right rear."
Most incredibly, this is being done from many thousands of feet altitude as the jets circle the area. Of course, the fighters can also destroy anything the ground troops decide is too tough to screw with as well, but they spend only about 10% of their time actually dropping bombs. After multiple such ops they the sit down and note which bad guys ran where and who radioed whom and figure out the network aspects of the insurgency. Seems a bit of a waste, using supersonic fighters to "chase" guys on foot, but I guess there is nothing else around that can do the job - and still be able to get anywhere else in Iraq in 10 min time or less.
This takes air-ground cooperation to a level that is unheard of.

6/01/2005 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger demosophist said...

Apparently I can't post the original article here because of the html limitations of the Blogger comments, so I'll go ahead and put it up on my website. I had no problem reading it from the original Belmont Club, but perhaps I just got lucky. Anyway The River War (Reprised).

If and when it's regularly accessible from the Belmont Club site I'll move it to "draft," to save the copy without making it visible.

I've also saved the 209 comments, though they aren't at my site.

Blogger sucks. What can I say.

6/01/2005 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Rwe wrote of air ops described in latest issues of Aviation Week: "This takes air-ground cooperation to a level that is unheard of."

Roger that. The latest issue continues the string with a Predator on the cover, looking for all the world like a friendly whale that flies. F-15's and F-16's are being flown with super cameras, like U-2's that can turn on a dime and loiter for hours. They fly in pairs, so one can stay on target, and with ground links (bandwidth is a big hassle everywhere) commanders can watch action in real time.

I think it would be extremely interesting for Wretchard to do one of his peerless analyses from these F-15 Eagle's eyes.

Then I get a guilty feeling that Chester might think we're giving away our game.

6/01/2005 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Yes, Tony, I saw the Predator article too. Was very impressed how the head of General Atomics just went ahead and did it - and let the Air Force catch up.
It makes me wonder about what impact these capabilities - and more importantly attitudes, will have on future ops, especially more "conventional" ones. Desert Storm made some in the USSR say "You see? These people are even more dangerous than we feared. We need to redouble our efforts to surpass them." But it made many others there say "See? You people devoted most of our economy to the military - and despite that it is obvious that the Americans could wipe us out with little or no effort if it came to that. It is time to give up." This is all being watched carefully in certain corners of the world - while our NATO "allies" no doubt once again look on in wonder.

6/01/2005 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Rwe wrote: "Was very impressed how the head of General Atomics just went ahead and did it - and let the Air Force catch up."

Oh yeah! Reminds me of my hero, Kelly Johnson, of the immortal Lockheed Skunkworks, where they built the greatest planes of all time - the P-38, F-104, U-2, and of course, the unmatched SR-71. All by hand, all without computers. Sheesh.

Yeah, this guy reminds me of an American hero with his Predators - which are turning into unmanned medium attack bombers - sheesh.

6/02/2005 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

That certainly did seem to separate the wheat from the chaff in the German Air Corps for a time.
Then there was Yeager's Rocket Assisted 104, way beyond the envelope (Normal Yeager) and Chuck's Rocket Fuel (ejection seat) heated helmet on the way down.
I still think the U-2 was one of the most innovative birds since Leonardo. So obvious in retrospect, but no one else thought of it, did they?

6/03/2005 04:29:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Doug shares my admiration for the F-104 and U-2. Kelly and his band of aeronautical geniuses replaced the stubby, seven foot long, razor-sharp wings of the F-104 with the long, droopy glider-like wings ... and voila! They had the U-2.

Still, the SR-71 is my favorite. For the first fifty years of plane-building, there was a constant progression of models that flew faster, further, higher. In 1966, when the Blackbird first flew, that progression stopped, and since that time, no air-breather has flown faster or higher than the SR-71. (Well, not counting the Aurora, but we don't know about that, do we?)

Not only did the Skunkworks guys build this thing with just slide rules, no computers, but - they even had to build the TOOLS to be able to work the titanium!

6/03/2005 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Do you have a link to a good estimate of the fastest the SR-71 actually did fly?

That evening Mitchell pored over maps of the Solomons with Lanphier and Joe McGuigan, the intelligence officer. They laid out a course that after leaving Guadalcanal, would keep them 50 miles away from the Japanese-held islands of New Georgia, Vella Lavella, and the Treasuries. The planned route from Guadalcanal to the interception point at Bougainville was 400 miles, two hours flight time. Based on their estimates of Yamamoto's air speed (180 MPH) and scheduled arrival at Kahili, they estimated that he would be at the interception point at 9:35AM. The brass had called for "maximum effort" to get Yamamoto; that meant Mitchell would lead 18 P-38 Lightnings on the mission.

. _____Major John W. Mitchell _____

6/04/2005 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger opit said...

I note some blogs posting to Furl to extend blog post capacity.

6/22/2005 05:55:00 PM  

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